The Chief Scientist works across government and with the research community to:

  • advise the government on key scientific matters
  • embed science in government policy and decision-making
  • coordinate research activities across the Ontario government
  • connect with the external research community to bring scientific expertise into government policy-making
  • develop a research strategy for Ontario and help drive an innovation-based economy
  • champion science education and help build public trust in science.

Dr. Molly Shoichet — Ontario’s first Chief Scientist

Dr. Molly Shoichet has been appointed Ontario’s first Chief Scientist.Dr. Molly Shoichet, an award-winning researcher and science communicator, was appointed in November, 2017.

Dr. Shoichet is an expert in the study of polymers for drug delivery and tissue regeneration and a world leader in the areas of polymer synthesis, biomaterials design and drug delivery in the nervous system. Her research focuses on strategies to promote tissue repair after traumatic spinal cord injury, stroke and blindness.

Dr. Shoichet holds the Tier 1 Canada Research Chair in Tissue Engineering and is Professor of Chemical Engineering & Applied Chemistry, Chemistry, and Biomaterials & Biomedical Engineering at the University of Toronto. She joined the University of Toronto in 1995 and was appointed University Professor in 2014, a distinction held by less than 2 per cent of the university’s faculty.

Dr. Shoichet has published over 575 papers, patents and abstracts, has given over 350 lectures worldwide, and has trained over 185 scientists in the past 22 years. She founded three spin-off companies from her lab research and is actively engaged in translational research with several industry partners. In 2015, Dr. Shoichet launched a national social media initiative, Research2Reality, aimed at engaging the public in the importance of research.

Dr. Shoichet is the recipient of 43 prestigious national and international awards. In 2015, she was the North American Laureate for the L’Oreal-UNESCO for Women in Science and in 2017, she won the Killam Prize in Engineering, the most important engineering prize in Canada. She is the only person ever to be inducted into all three of Canada’s National Academies: the Canadian Academy of Sciences of the Royal Society of Canada, the Canadian Academy of Engineering, and the Canadian Academy of Health Sciences.

Dr. Shoichet was appointed to the Order of Ontario in 2011. In 2013, her contributions to Canada’s innovation agenda and the advancement of knowledge were recognized with the QEII Diamond Jubilee Award.

Background

In June 2016, Premier Kathleen Wynne announced the creation of a new position, Chief Science Officer.

The Chief Science Officer is expected to work for and with research communities, such as research hospitals, universities and research institutes to:

  • champion high quality science in government and education
  • help the government make decisions on science-based policy issues
  • advise the government on how to support future research and innovation projects
  • publicly promote Ontario as a hub for research across Canada and the world by attracting global research talent
  • lay the groundwork for the next generation of research and innovation jobs by leading the development of the best science strategy for the province

The recruitment process

Recruitment for the Chief Science Officer included: 

  • Stakeholder meetings with the research and innovation communities in Winter 2016
  • An online consultation from March 14-27, 2017 (closed)
  • Candidate search and selection: an executive recruitment firm will run the recruiting process. Please see the news release for further details.
  • Chief Science Officer announced, Fall 2017

Consultation results

What we heard

In a mandate letter to the Minister of Research, Innovation and Science (MRIS), the Premier asked the ministry to consult with the scientific community and the broader public to help develop a mandate for the Chief Science Officer.

Consultation numbers at a glance

Between March 14-27, 2017:

  • 165 submissions through our online survey
  • 14 submissions by email
  • 31 in-person meetings with Ontario ministries and research community stakeholders  

Respondents identified themselves as working in the following sectors:

  • research hospital - 10%
  • university - 19%
  • research institute - 5%
  • government - 15%
  • private sector - 20%
  • did not specify skills and qualifications - 31%

Skill and qualifications

The feedback we received suggested that the Chief Science Officer should have the following qualities:

  • a proven academic record
  • familiarity with government policy processes 
  • strong communication skills
  • understanding and knowledge of the Ontario research ecosystem 
  • executive experience
  • excellent educator
  • exceptional networking skills
  • strong ethics
  • an independent thinker

The ability to establish and maintain trust and confidence among politicians, the media, and scientists was also listed as an important attribute of a Chief Science Officer.

Though neither a skill nor an easily quantifiable qualification, the CSO should also have an unwavering desire to see Ontario become a preeminent location for scientific research and innovation.

Online respondent, employed in private sector, lives in Kitchener

Working with the public and science, research and innovation-based organizations

The fundamental message was that the Chief Science Officer (CSO) should be an excellent communicator and able to work with researchers in institutions across the province and across the Ontario government.

The CSO should act as a networking hub by connecting government policymakers to the scientific expertise available in Ontario’s research community, including:

  • promoting research collaborations and partnerships within the Ontario Public Service, and externally
  • working with all government ministries given that a number of issues cross ministry boundaries and require an all-of-government approach

A common theme suggested in many submissions described the CSO as someone who would help translate complex scientific concepts for government decision makers and the public.
Many respondents also suggested the creation of an external science advisory council or body to assist the CSO in fulfilling their duties as a number of other jurisdictions have done, such as the United Kingdom, New Zealand and Quebec. 

I view the job of the CSO to be one of co-ordination, communication and collaboration. The CSO will maintain dynamic, fluid, networks of partners, bringing together those most suited for any task at hand.

Stakeholder’s submission. Respondent is employed as a research executive in a university/research hospital in Ontario.

Science-based advice to inform government policies and programs

Feedback indicated that the Chief Science Officer should provide science-based advice and guidance on:

  • social issues and health-care (basic income, mental health, aging populations, etc.)
  • climate change and the environment
  • agriculture and food safety
  • the impacts of disruptive technologies (artificial intelligence, big data, robotics, block chain technology, etc.)
  • the digital future (smart grid, intelligent communities, next gen telecom networks, etc.)
  • disaster management and preparedness (SARS, Zika crisis, natural disasters, etc.)
  • other areas including:
    • sustainable energy
    • youth
    • mental health
    • vaccinations
    • rural/urban divide
    • support for basic science

Other suggested ideas

A number of respondents mentioned:

  • priorities related to inclusiveness and gender diversity in science, as well as Indigenous knowledge
  • that the Chief Science Officer should work in an open and transparent manner and should be able to communicate freely with the public and media

In line with our Open Government mandate, the CSO can assist in promoting the principles of open access and open science.

It was also suggested that the CSO could be involved in helping to develop methodologies and approaches to measuring the socio-economic benefits of research investments.

And it was noted that one way to measure the success of the CSO would be: in increased trust in science by the public and decision-makers.

Next steps

Based on the feedback we received, we are changing the title of the position from Chief Science Officer to Chief Scientist.
The new title better reflects the advisory nature and key functions of the position.

Proposed mandate

We’re proposing that the Chief Scientist:

  • Provide advice on external research activities and on the development of a strategic research agenda for Ontario
  • Coordinate and build Ontario’s science research capacity in government by increasing the use of scientific evidence in decision-making across government ministries
  • Advise the government on the appropriate balance between basic and applied research
  • Promote the value of science and help increase public trust in science
  • Help make Ontario the top destination for global research talent
  • Have a government-wide mandate to provide scientific expertise to inform key policy decisions
  • Report to the Minister of Research, Innovation and Science on an ongoing basis and to the Premier on key scientific matters

The final mandate will be announced in the Fall of 2017.

Candidate search and selection

The selection process of the Chief Scientist is now concluded. Please see the news release for details.

Updated: May 19, 2021
Published: February 14, 2017